Perhaps the greatest news to come out of last week’s “News Literacy: Setting a National Agenda” conference at the State University of New York at Stony Brook was this: The University’s Center for News Literacy is working on a proposal aimed at hiring 50 unemployed journalists and training them to teach in colleges throughout the country. The goal is to have government and foundation grant money pay for the salaries and the training of these journalists.
When Howard “Howie” Schneider, dean of the University’s journalism school, asked if any of the nearly 100 educators, administrators and journalists attending the conference on Long Island Friday would like to have one of these journalists for their schools, hands quickly shot into the air. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has awarded SUNY Stony Brook a grant to help find full funding for the project. The hope is that some of the education money the Obama administration has targeted at education might be used for this project, along with foundation money that SUNY Stony Brook hopes to secure.
It is a fabulous idea that takes a step toward solving two major problems in journalism: the unemployment of experienced, excellent journalists and the inability of many news consumers to differentiate between quality journalism and propaganda, public relations and/or shoddy journalism. The goal of this conference was to discuss ways to integrate classes on being a savvy news consumer into high school and college/university curriculums. I can think of no better way to get students interested than to have “guest teachers” who worked in journalism talk about the ins and outs of understanding the news.
Here’s hoping SUNY Stony Brook can pull this off. My hat’s off to the teachers and administrators at Stony Brook for their innovation and dilligence.